VINEGAR DRINKS CATCHING ON
Consumers Attracted by Health Benefits (January 25, 2005)
Vinegar, known as o-su in Japanese, has long been
an important ingredient in Japanese cuisine. It is the condiment that gives the
rice in sushi its sharp flavor, for example. What is more, vinegar is considered
to be good for the health, particularly for improving circulation and countering
fatigue. Now more and more Japanese are seeking the benefits of vinegar not only
by eating food containing it but by drinking vinegar-based beverages. Further
fueled by reports that rice vinegar is effective in promoting weight loss, a wide
range of vinegar-based drinks have hit the market recently.
|A consumer selects a vinegar drink (Jiji)
At the forefront of the vinegar-drinking trend are fruit vinegar beverages. Diluted
with water, these are like juice but are made from fermented fruits, such as apples,
grapes, or raspberries. The beverages have been a particular hit among women in
their twenties and thirties. Sales have more than doubled over the last year or
two, according to a major vinegar manufacturer.
The other form of drinkable vinegar is kurozu ("black
vinegar"), which has gained popularity mainly among middle-aged people. This
type of vinegar takes from one to three years to ferment, considerably longer
than regular vinegar. Like most other types of Japanese vinegar, it is made from
polished or unpolished rice, rather than fruit.
During the fermentation process, the vinegar darkens as it matures. At the same
time, according to its manufacturers, its flavor and aroma become more intense,
while the quantities of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other beneficial
substances in the vinegar increase.
Drinking vinegar-based beverages may not be everyone's cup of tea, which is why
many vinegar and beverage makers have been busy coming up with ways of making
their products as palatable as possible. It is a necessary task, given that conventional
vinegar cannot be drunk because its strong properties may cause stomachache.
In an effort to demonstrate that the new products can be a pleasure to drink,
one established vinegar producer has set up its own retail shops inside department
stores in Yokohama, Nagoya, and other big cities. The shops' staff act as "vinegar
sommeliers," explaining to customers the various new ways of enjoying vinegar,
such as combining it with yogurt or ice cream. Each day, the company's Yokohama
outlet sells around 500 bottles of beverages made from fruit vinegar mixed with
fruit juice, each priced at around ¥1,300 ($13 at ¥100 to the dollar).
The vast majority of customers at the shops are women.
Competition in the vinegar drink market is expected to hot up in 2005 as vinegar
and beverage makers begin marketing their products to a wider group of consumers.
Most of the fruit vinegar and black vinegar beverages are diluted with water before
drinking. Makers now plan to offer "vinegar water," which simply combines
water and vinegar and does not need to be diluted. Plastic bottles of vinegar
water will be sold in convenience stores alongside soft drinks and juices. Although
these drinks contain only about 1% vinegar, they are sure to prove popular, as
vinegar-based beverages have firmly established themselves as health drinks in
the minds of many consumers.
Vinegar drinks are the latest in a line of health drinks that have caught the
public's imagination. The previous boom was for drinks containing amino acids,
but when this trend ran out of steam the market suffered from a dearth of hit
products. Now the introduction of vinegar drinks offers the promise of reinvigorating
the health-drink market.
Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.
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(April 6, 2004)
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